Louise-Michel

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San Sebastian Film Festival, In Competition

Let's face it, politically correctness has its limits when dealing with today's evil society. Enter "Louise-Michel", the third highly original comedy by French directing duo Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern. Admirers of "Aaltra" and "Avida" will be prepped for their wicked black humor, which spares no one from cross-sexuals to cancer patients. Once again, this is not a film for the masses, but it will further expand the Delepine-Kervern fan club wherever it finds a commercial outlet.

The film's radical intentions are clear from an early scene when Louise (a wonderfully dead-pan Yolande Moreau) blows the brains out of a banker intent on foreclosing her farm. Fifteen years later, we find her morosely working in a provincial factory, which gets shut down overnight. The abruptly unemployed women workers discuss what to do with their measly severance pay and unanimously vote for Louise's suggestion: they pool their money and send her forth to find a hitman to whack the boss.

Her choice falls on swaggering braggart Michel (Belgian actor/director Bouli Lanners), too soft-hearted to shoot a dog but not above persuading his cousin Jenny, an emaciated, shaven-head cancer victim (played by young poet Miss Ming), to murder the boss, then commit suicide. Not exactly your standard comic material, but given Kervern and Delepine's rigorous use of fixed-frame camera, brilliantly lit by D.P. Hugues Poulain, the scene actually works.

At this point the committee of unemployed workers discovers that their victim is not the real boss. The one who gave the order to close the factory is the president of the international Nin Nin company. Hot on his trail, Louise and Michel are smuggled in the cargo hold of a boat, along with dozens of African immigrants, to the mythical tax paradise of Jersey.

It should be said that both Louise and Michel are actually the opposite sex. The semi-illiterate Louise (born Jean-Pierre) masquerades as a woman to find employment, while Michel (originally Cathy) dresses as a man for his own reasons. Moreau ("When the Sea Rises") and Lanners ("Eldorado") are award-winning filmmakers in their own right who bring a note of deadpan anarchy to these surreal roles.

Adding to the film's political incorrectness is an eye-popping scene of a paranoid engineer (Benoit Poelvoorde) blowing up models of the World Trade Center with toy airplanes and the film's producer Mathieu Kassovitz (the actor and director) appearing in a cameo as an environmentally-friendly bed-and-breakfast owner.

A final tip of the hat is owed to Gaetan Roussel's spare but weird musical accompaniment, which further underlines the story's originality.

Production company: MNP Entreprise, No Money Productions, Arte France Cinema.
Cast: Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners, Benoit Poelvoorde, Francis Kuntz, Lemi Cetol, Mathieu Kassovitz, Miss Ming.
Directors: Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern.
Screenwriters: Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern.
Executive producer: Elisa Larriere.
Producer: Mathieu Kassovitz, Benoit Jaubert.
Director of photography Hugues Poulain:.
Production designer: Paul Chapelle.
Music: Gaetan Roussel.
Editor: Stephane Elmadjian.
Sales Agent: Funny Balloons, Paris.
94 minutes.

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